Americans are worried about federal deficits, but according to the Pew Research Center they are more concerned about a stagnating economy and weak job market.
A survey by Pew and The Washington Post released last week "showed that the percentage saying that reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority jumped from 53 percent in 2009 to 64 percent this year. But the deficit ranked far lower than the economy (87 percent) and jobs (84 percent) on the public’s 2011 agenda.
"Few disagree that the budget deficit is an urgent problem — in late May, 74 percent said it is a major problem the country must address now," Pew says. "But when asked which economic issue worried them most, more cited the job situation than the budget deficit (by 38 percent to 28 percent)."
Pew notes the public has taken only a modest interest in the partisan wrangling in Washington, D.C. over raising the debt ceiling and trimming federal deficits. Opinion is almost evenly divided over raising the debt ceiling. Pew says 66 percent of Republicans worry it would lead to more federal deficit spending, while 54 percent of Democrats fret over the fallout if the debt limit isn't raised.
The survey also touched on Social Security and Medicare. "For the public, reducing the deficit is a much lower priority than preserving the benefits provided by Social Security and Medicare," Pew says. "In mid-June, 60 percent said it was more important to keep these benefits as they are, while just 32 percent said it was more important to reduce the deficit. Less affluent Republicans view preserving entitlements as more important, while Republicans with higher incomes prioritize deficit reduction. Democrats across income categories say it is more important to keep benefits as they are."
Survey results confirm what other polls in recent days have shown — a majority of Americans favor a mix of spending cuts and tax increases, especially on higher-earning taxpayers. "Americans like lower taxes," Pew says. "When President Obama and congressional Republicans agreed on an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts in December, 60 percent of the public approved of the deal."
"But most also acknowledge that the best way to reduce the deficit is through a combination of cuts in major programs and tax increases," Pew adds. "And a large majority (66 percent) approves of raising taxes on incomes of $250,000 or more to reduce the debt."